Following their award-winning collaboration in 2012 with Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of John Logan’s Red, Colin Friels reunites with director Alkinos Tsilimidos in Justin Butchers’ critically acclaimed monologue, Scaramouche Jones.
It’s New Year’s Eve, 1999, Scaramouche Jones, a ‘white-faced’ clown who has travelled most of the world, is about to turn 100. In a post-performance rumination, and as his life is about to come to an end, Jones takes us on a journey of crumbling empires, that sits somewhere between the realm of fantasy and reality.
It begins at his midnight birth on a wharf in Trinidad in 1899, where his mother, struck by the exceptional whiteness of his face, nicknames him, Scaramouche. From here, he’s orphaned, sold to an Arab slave trader, indentured to a snake-charmer in Senegal, rescued from a dungeon by an Italian Prince, adopted by Gypsies in Mussolini’s Italy and forced to marry a 12-year-old girl.
However the journey doesn’t stop there as he becomes a grave-digger in a Nazi death camp, macabrely performing pantomime to entertain children awaiting execution, is tried at Nuremberg, before landing in England, revealing the last of the seven ‘white -faced masks’ he will wear as a clown, and a life of buffoonery, for the next 50 years.
Justin Butchers script is a masterpiece of wordplay on its own, captivating and a delight for the ears. For near on seventy-five minutes, under Tsilimidos solid direction, Friels encapsulates the dramatic monologue with a perfect sense of tragedy and beauty, journeying us through a century of world history and politics through the eyes of an outsider.
Beautifully lit by Matt Scott, Richard Roberts set is simple but utilises the full expanse of the Fairfax stage. A battered suitcase, a dressing table, a worn sheet of canvas hanging from a guy rope and a string of carnival lights, sets the atmosphere, allowing Friel’s stage presence to speak for itself. Tristan Meredith’s subtle though evocative sound design enhances each mood.
Scaramouche Jones is a stunning piece of theatre, touching, tragic and genuine. Definitely a must see!
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 17 August 2018 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 25 August 2018
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au
Image: Colin Friels stars as Scaramouche Jones – photo by Lachlan Bryan
Review: Rohan Shearn